So-called "Redneck Shop" at Center of Dispute

March 24, 2008

The Laurens, South Carolina-based Redneck Shop, known for selling Klan robes and other white supremacist items and for hosting Klan and neo-Nazi meetings, is at the center of a new dispute.

David Kennedy, an African American civil rights leader, claims to own the building that houses The Redneck Shop.  He is now questioning whether John Howard, a former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) grand dragon who claims the right to use the building for the rest of his life, is operating the shop within the limits of his rights to use the building. 

In addition to selling merchandise, Howard has allowed Klan and neo-Nazi groups to use The Redneck Shop as a meeting place. In April 2007, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the largest neo-Nazi organization in the country, held its national meeting in a room of the shop adorned with murals of Adolf Hitler and George Lincoln Rockwell (the deceased founder and leader of the American Nazi Party). In March 2006, about 80 members of the NSM and several different Klan groups used the shop to discuss ways to increase cooperation. Groups reportedly in attendance included the NSM, Aryan Nations, the Griffin Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the National Knights, the Teutonic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and the Yahweh Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The neo-Nazi Nazi National Socialist Order of America (NSOA), a NSM offshoot, currently calls The Redneck Shop its headquarters. John Taylor Bowles, NSOA's leader, who is a former NSM member and a 2008 Presidential candidate, is using the shop as his campaign headquarters. Bowles has announced that the NSOA's National Congress will be held there on Labor Day weekend 2008.

The Redneck Shop has been selling goods to the public and promoting white supremacy for over a decade. In March 1996, John Howard and Michael Burden, then members of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK, converted the Echo Theater building into The Redneck Shop, a Klan museum and store. Howard is reputed to have then sold some portion of the building or business to Burden, allegedly with an agreement that Howard would have lifetime rights to operate the store in the building. Burden shortly thereafter disavowed any connection to the Klan and associated with Kennedy, who allowed him to join his church. In 1997, Burden alleges he sold his interest in The Redneck Shop to Kennedy for $1,000. Howard maintains that he still has the right to operate the store within the building for his lifetime. Notably, NSOA treasurer Nick Chappell, a former NSM member, claims to have bought The Redneck Shop in 2007.

According to reports, Kennedy is working with lawyers to terminate Howard's use of the building.  If successful, Kennedy, leader of the New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church, plans to convert the space into a mission for his church.